PRECIOUS-Gold inches down, Bernanke eyed for stimulus clue
* Disappointing China growth, U.S. retail data limit losses * China, India premiums on physical products stay high * CFTC data shows speculative short position at record high (New updates throughout, adds comment, details, second byline, dateline) By Frank Tang and Clara Denina NEW YORK/LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) - Gold eased in quiet trade on Monday after last week's sharp gain, as investors await Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony before U.S. Congress later this week for market cues. The metal rose overnight after data showed China's economic growth slowed in the second quarter, and later a report showed U.S. retail sales rose less than expected in June. Bullion investors now focus on Bernanke's semi-annual testimony to Congressional committees this Wednesday and Thursday, which will be watched for further signs about the timing and speed of any reduction in bond purchases. Gold gained 5 percent last week, its biggest weekly gain in nearly 2 years, after Bernanke said the U.S. central bank needed to keep a stimulative monetary policy in place given an uncertain job market and low inflation. "Although prices have responded to concerns over growth, in our view, a deterioration in U.S. macro data would be required for prices to make a sustained move higher in light of record gross short positions," said Suki Cooper, precious metals strategist at Barclays Capital. Spot gold inched down 49 cents to $1,283.80 an ounce by 2:59 p.m. EDT (1859 GMT). U.S. gold futures for August delivery settled up $5.90 at $1,283.50 an ounce, with trading volume about 30 percent below its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed. Hedge funds and money managers raised bullish bets in gold and futures and options for a second straight week, as signs of tight physical supplies sparked buying, a report by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed on Friday. However, speculators also boosted their short position to a record high. ASIAN PHYSICAL PREMIUMS HIGH The cost of borrowing gold stayed near its highest level since January 2009, reflecting dwindling supplies from bullion banks after heavy liquidation and resilient demand for physical gold products. Trading volumes for gold and silver on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) rose to record volume on Friday, with premiums in Asian gold products remained at sharply higher levels than in North America and Europe. "The strength in China and India gold premiums, the recent move higher in gold lease rates and central bank gold buying indicate physical demand for gold may provide some support in the near term," Deutsche Bank commodities strategists said in a note. However, investor sentiment remained guarded. Holdings of the world's largest gold-backed ETF SPDR Gold Trust posted the biggest weekly loss of 2.6 percent since the end of April last week. The fund has seen outflows of over 13 million ounces, or about $17 billion at current prices, so far this year. Among other metals, silver gained 0.3 percent to $19.93 an ounce, having risen nearly 6 percent last week. Supply fears due to mine labor issues in South Africa continue to boost platinum group metals. Platinum rose 1.4 percent to $1,421.24 an ounce, while palladium was up 1.6 percent to $729.50 an ounce. 2:59 PM EDT LAST/ NET PCT LOW HIGH CURRENT SETTLE CHNG CHNG VOL US Gold AUG 1283.50 5.90 0.5 1272.50 1293.60 106,996 US Silver SEP 19.839 0.047 0.2 19.540 20.135 23,930 US Plat OCT 1421.40 14.50 1.0 1407.00 1427.00 5,255 US Pall SEP 732.15 9.25 1.3 721.45 734.55 2,167 Gold 1283.80 -0.49 0.0 1276.45 1294.46 Silver 19.930 0.060 0.3 19.700 20.140 Platinum 1421.24 19.74 1.4 1406.00 1423.00 Palladium 729.50 11.50 1.6 724.00 731.25 TOTAL MARKET VOLUME 30-D ATM VOLATILITY CURRENT 30D AVG 250D AVG CURRENT CHG US Gold 132,979 193,507 179,431 22.93 -0.50 US Silver 25,823 66,385 56,418 29.42 -1.94 US Platinum 5,326 16,183 13,073 24.21 -1.95 US Palladium 2,206 4,418 5,519 (Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; Editing by Anthony Barker, Jeff Coelho and Nick Zieminski)
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